F1 OPT STEM Extension Issues and Crisis

The STEM Crisis

Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) are important fields which not only drive innovation, yet also play an important role in America’s ability to remain a worldwide marketing leader.

Yet, presently, the United States is struggling to fill STEM positions.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report STEM professions are expected to increase by 9 million between 2012 – 2022, averaging out to a little less than 1 million STEM openings per year.

In addition to filling openings, there are other reports of STEM workers leaving their respective fields to pursue other careers. In fact, per a 2014 U.S. Census Bureau Report, 74% of STEM majors who graduated with a bachelor’s degree were not working in their designated field.

With the amount of data available, is there a lack of qualified STEM workers or simply a lack of interest?


There are many questions as to what exactly the Trump Administration will do with the current H-1B visa program.

Initially, the president-elect was against the H-1B visa program, vowing to eliminate it. Yet, following many conversations with business owners during his presidential campaign, Trump has changed his tune about the program, instead directing his administration to perform and in-depth review for any potential signs of abuse.

Trump’s primary focus is ensuring adequate recruitment efforts are made to hire American employees before foreign nationals.

Yet, if the U.S. Labor Market should need to fill nearly 1 million STEM professions per year, delay efforts to fill those positions with qualified applicants. With the large number of projected openings, it’s not likely they’ll all be filled by qualified American workers.


Currently, the United States doesn’t have a specific strategy or program in place to retain foreign nationals who take classes in the United States majoring in STEM fields.

Foreign students can attend U.S. universities under an F-1 status.

The visa permits foreign nationals to obtain a college degree at a U.S. university. However, it doesn’t allow F-1 visa holders to work while in college. The only type of work an F-1 visa holder can do is through a program which requires on-the-job experience for the student to graduate such as Optional Practical Training (OPT) or Curricular Practical Training (CPT) programs. Yet, even upon completing these programs, foreign national graduates are required to leave the U.S. and return home.

There has been a push by many business owners and few lawmakers to create a path which helps foreign nationals who major in STEM fields to remain in the United States and granted a green card for working in the field.


Based on the number of people leaving STEM professions, one area of concern is the amount of education and preparation today’s college students are receiving.

It seems basic job-related skillsets are covered, yet other important skills are not. A few of those skills include professional writing, effective office communication, and how to collaborate with others. Skillsets which help create better work environments and play a part in furthering careers.

Some economists have even suggested requiring all college majors to put more of an emphasis on STEM careers.

Today, many nations are pouring billions of dollars into researching and developing ways to increase STEM workers and mentors, as well as retain F-1 visa holders who graduate with a degree in one of the many STEM fields.

The Obama Administration has taken measures to help retain foreign nationals who major in STEM occupations, calling for the U.S. government to create programs which train 10,000 new U.S. engineers each year and 100,000 STEM teachers by 2020.

Only time will tell if this will meet the expected STEM labor growth.


Come 2017, hopefully many lingering questions will get answered such as:

  • What’s the validity of the number of STEM positions the U.S. Labor Force will be looking to fill from now until 2022?
  • How will the Trump Administration impact the future of the H-1B visa program?
  • Should all college majors place more emphasis on STEM courses to better fill positions in the future?
  • And finally, will a path toward U.S. citizenship be created for F-1B visa students who major in STEM fields to retain them?

In addition to the Trump Administration, economy experts and education professionals will need to work together to identify the specific reasons for the lack of qualified STEM applicants and determine how to better support those pursuing a career in one of the four STEM fields.

Companies may also need to come up with ways – beyond better compensation – to better retain STEM employees.

Finally, the current H-1B visa cap is set at 85,000. Of course, not all those selected to receive an H-1B visa are entering a STEM profession. So another question lawmakers will need to answer is whether the cap should be increased or completely eliminated?

H-1B Visa Program Helps Make America Great

H-1B Visa Program Helps Make America Great

Today we have iPhones, iPads, vehicle navigation systems, laptops, and space shuttles. We’ve been to the moon, sent a NASA designed vehicle to Mars, and can now connect with anyone around the world within seconds.

Who knows? By tomorrow, we could be living in a real-life Star Wars universe complete with flying cars and androids, protected under a highly advanced military defense system (hopefully without the threat of Darth Vader and the Empire taking over).

Global competition is fierce within the technology industry. Every hi-tech company is striving to be the first to mass market the next iconic innovation.

Therefore, to remain competitive, technology companies require the best and the brightest in high-tech knowledge and skillsets. Therefore, it’s not uncommon for U.S. companies to hire immigrants with specific expertise under the H-1B visa program.

Immigrants Taking American Jobs

Many Americans are critical of the H-1B visa program.Those fears are based on the perception immigrants are taking U.S. jobs away from American-natives.

It’s not difficult finding articles which support those claims; yet, many of those articles cherry-pick certain facts and stories to paint a less than favorable narrative of what the H-1B visa program is really all about.

For example, if you compare the national unemployment rate with the number of available jobs, it’s easy to conclude U.S.-based companies are intentionally overlooking American workers for H-1B visa immigrants. The numbers may be legit, yet the problem is not a national issue as much as it is a geographical one.

Within U.S. locations, technology positions are not so easily filled and not a result from a lack of trying.

By law, every U.S.-based business must first advertise job openings within their company and to the general public.

Upon conducting interviews, if applicants fail to meet specific criteria or upon a low turnout response, the company can submit petitions to the United State Citizenship of Immigration Services to hire H-1B visa workers.

Creating Jobs and Keeping Business Here

Now, companies could elect NOT to hire foreign immigrants.

Leaving job vacancies, if positions are not filled, can impact the amount of work a company can produce. Therefore, hiring foreign nationals with the knowledge and skill sets to help produce and export business creates more jobs in order to keep up with demand.

The more work completed, the more labor is needed to export products and services. In fat, a study conducted by economist Madeline Zavodny revealed for every 100 H-1B visa workers, there were 183 American native jobs created.

Not only are more jobs created, the H-1B visa program helps prevent businesses from being outsourced.

For example, in 2004 the number of H-1B visas were reduced from 195,000 to 85,000. As a result, a number of U.S.-based companies sent their business overseas. Those companies were not able to hire enough qualified (the key word) U.S. talent for positions they were hiring.

If the H-1B visa cap remained the same or even increased, there’s proof it would help keep American companies in the United States and create MORE jobs.

And finally, as foreign immigrants fill positions in U.S.-based companies, it helps the U.S. economy become more globally competitive – especially in the field of technology. As American technology companies remain on top of the global market there will be a need to create and fill more positions.

H-1B Visa Workers Impact on Wages

There are speculations U.S. companies hire H-1B visa workers in order to take advantage of “Cheap Labor”. Ironically, there are also speculations U.S. companies hire H-1B visa immigrants and pay them better than American workers.

Regardless, U.S. companies are required by FEDERAL LAW to provide H-1B foreign employees with the same compensation as an American worker with the same education and experience.

In all actuality, U.S. companies prefer to hire U.S. workers verses foreign nationals under the H-1B visa program due to the additional fees associated to petitioning the foreign national and following through with the entire process. Companies are required to pay fees associated to H-1B visa work permits. The process can be quite costly.

Yet, hiring foreign workers can help increase annual wages.

For example, with the right talent in place, U.S. companies will increase their profits. The better a company does, the more annual raises which can be distributed.


H-1B Visa Workers Stimulate Economy

And finally, H-1B visa workers help stimulate the U.S. economy.

Research indicates the H-1B visa program helps contribute billions of dollars to the U.S. Gross Domestic Product. In 2007-08, the U.S. government rejected 178,000 H-1B visa applications within the field of technology. According to many experts, if the U.S. government had approved the visa applications it would have created a little over 230,000 tech jobs for U.S. citizens in metropolitan cities in the two years which followed.

Since their visa is good for up to six years, that means they’ll be making multiple purchases while here in the states, especially if they brought their spouses and children with them. H-1B visa workers contribute by paying income tax, sales tax, property tax (if they purchased land), and subjected to Medicare or Medicaid payroll deductions.

In Summary

A quick recap, H-1B visa workers help . . .

  • Create jobs
  • Keep businesses in America
  • Increase wages
  • Stimulate the U.S. economy

With all the good the H-1B visa program does for America, the real question is should the annual H-1B visa cap be increased?

Based on what we know, increasing the H-1B visa gap to more closely correlate the needs of the U.S. labor market would – in fact – have long term positive impacts on our nation. It would not only offer foreign nationals a path to U.S. citizenship, it would decrease unemployment and help the U.S. remain as one of the top global technology competitors.




November 2016 H1B Newsletter- American Technology Consulting

Does the H-1B Visa Program Help or Hurt the American Worker?
Immigration has been a HUUUUUUUGE topic of the 2016 U.S. election.
During his campaign for the U.S. presidency, Donald Trump made comments he would like to put an end to the H-1B visa program to eliminate – what he referred to as – “CHEAP LABOR”.
These concerns are a result of accusations that big companies abuse the program to save money paying highly skilled foreign workers less. Unfortunately, there have been cases where some U.S. companies have abused the program (i.e., Disney and Toys “R” Us).
When these isolated incidents occur, it’s no surprise many Americans are under the impression foreigners are taking over American jobs, leaving U.S. citizens unemployed. This not only affects U.S. citizens, but also their families.
However, extensive research conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statics paints a different picture.
In fact, when U.S. companies use the H-1B visa program, historically, the results point to increases in American jobs and wages.
H-1B Visa Program Creates Jobs
When comparing the number of specialty jobs verse qualified U.S. workers to fill them, it’s easy to conclude American companies need to be hire more unemployed U.S. citizens to fill those vacancies. However, what many critics don’t mention (or not aware), the issue is not a national problem – it’s geographic.
In certain portions of the country supply simply doesn’t meet demand.
Companies in need of workers for specialty positons reside in areas where shortages of qualified U.S. candidates exist. Legally, U.S. companies are required to advertise and hire qualified American workers first. Upon advertising and interviewing for specific positions, if the employer cannot fill all openings with qualified U.S. candidates, they’re allowed to petition for highly-skilled foreign national workers.
This begs the question, what’s the impact on American jobs when H-1B visa workers are hired to fill the gaps? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, research indicates the program is responsible for lowering unemployment rates in areas where the H-1B visa program is utilized.
Based on study, researchers discovered:
  • Increasing the annual cap on H-1B visas, the change could generate up to 1.3 million new jobs, adding around $158 billion to the Gross Domestic Product in the United States by 2045.
  • If the U.S. government eliminated the 85,000 annual H-1B visa cap, more jobs would be created for American workers.
For example, between 2007 – 2008, 178,000 petitions in the field of computer science were submitted to the United States Citizenship of Immigration Services. Without the cap, if all petitions were approved, nearly 231,000 tech jobs for U.S. – born residents could have been created between 2009 – 2010.
Therefore, the H-1B visa program expands job opportunities for American workers. It does not replace them.
H-1B Visa Program Increases Wages
Before any U.S. company can decide to petition to hire highly skilled foreign immigrants, they first must prove to the United States Citizenship of Immigration Services (USCIS) there’s a legit need.
Next, the U.S. employer must show they will provide foreign immigrant workers with a prevailing wage (a wage determined based on the position and the geographic location of the employer’s office). Therefore, H-1B visa holders are protected and assured they will receive equal pay as any U.S. – born worker.
So, when U.S. companies fill employment gaps with H-1B visa holders, does that mean wages will suffer? Based on history, no.
In fact, companies tend to experience greater wage growth through the H-1B visa program verses companies who don’t have a need to use the H-1B visa program.
  • From 1990 to 2010, there was a huge push from U.S. companies to fill occupations in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. These are known as S.T.E.M. occupations. During this 20-year timeframe, U.S. college-educated workers employed in the one of the four S.T.E.M. professions received significant wage increases.
An increase of 1 percentage point in foreign S.T.E.M. workers was linked to a 7 to 8 percentage point increase in wages for both STEM and non-S.T.E.M. college-educated U.S. workers. Non-college educated workers saw an increase of three to four percentage points.
  • Between 2009 to 2011, U.S. workers with a bachelor’s degree received very minimal wage increase verses American workers who worked in occupations which included large numbers of H-1B visa workers.
In Summary
In conclusion, the H-1B visa program benefits the U.S. economy creating more jobs for Americans and increasing wages.
Many S.T.E.M. professions generally have lower unemployment rates compared to the U.S. national unemployment rate. As unemployment rates decrease, demands for labor increases and exceeds supply.
Plus, H-1B work permits helps America remain competitive in the global market.
It’s a “dual-citizenship” visa, meaning it gives foreign nationals a path towards obtaining a green card and becoming a permanent U.S. resident. The longer foreign nationals are permitted to stay in the United States, the greater likelihood more jobs will be created and the economy will prosper.

American Technology October 2016 H1-B News letter


There are a number of hoops to jump through in acquiring a U.S. work visa.Filling out forms, gathering legal documents, ensuring a vacancy is available, and finally scheduling a meeting with a U.S. Embassy official. And, on a side note, when meeting with U.S. Embassy officials, if you don’t have everything ready and prepared at your appointed time, you’ll have to reschedule, which only delays the process even further.So, needless to say, getting approved for a U.S. work permit is anything but a cakewalk.


Application Scam

Sadly, there are many criminal-minded individuals who prey on foreign immigrants unfamiliar with the U.S. visa application process.They create scams which generate fear, causing their victims to pay high sums of money to fix issues which, unbeknownst to them, were nothing more than a tactic to rob them.

These scams begin with a phone call from someone usually claiming to represent the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). They trick foreign nationals into believing there’s an issue with their application. They go over some details (sounding all professional) and eventually inform the unsuspecting immigrant their application is invalid. Of course, this news is not taken well, and the foreign national gets upset, fearing they’ll have to wait a year or longer to obtain a U.S. work visa. Or, perhaps never be able to obtain one at all.

Upon hearing the tension in their voice, that’s when the fraudster tells them, “For a set fee, we can correct the mistake for you and ensure your application gets submitted”. In some cases, the scammer will GUARANTEE their application will also be approved and have an open job waiting for them in the U.S.

To no surprise, the fake USCIS caller will require payment immediately, requesting their victims provide bank account information or wire the money so they can get their application submitted.

These heartless con-artists know many immigrants will pay an exorbitant amount of money for a guaranteed work permit in the United States, with a chance to obtain a green card and permanent residency.

Of course, as you can probably figure, weeks or months later the victim discovers there were no issues with their application and their bank account is drained, or the money they wired never went towards ensuring their work visa status. It’s likely they’ll figure this out upon contacting the USCIS for a status update on their situation.

What many victims don’t know is the USCIS does NOT contact applicants over the phone, ask for money over the phone, nor do they accept payments over the phone or from Western Union.

If the USCIS should ever need to notify you about anything related to your U.S. work visa, they’ll do it through the mail.

911 Scam

Foreign nationals are also targets of scams once they arrive to the United States.

In the 911 scam, a foreign national receives a call which their caller ID identifies as 911. Upon answering, the caller will identify themselves as a representative of the USCIS or the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

They’ll attempt to instill fear into their victim making claims their visa status is invalid or their alien registration is not up-up-date. They’ll follow those claims with threats of deportation within the next 24 to 48-hours.

Of course, like all scams, they provide their victims with a chance to rectify their situation for a set fee.

The foreign national can either provide details of their bank account or wire the money to them.

There are a lot of ways to identify this as a scam. First, 911 would not call you unless you called them first. Second, if there ever were any issues with an immigrant’s work visa status, they would receive a notification in the mail. And finally, again, the USCIS nor the DHS takes payments over the phone.



In addition to fake online sites, cyber-criminals also use email as a way to trick foreigners into sending money.

Some e-mails appear to come from the USCIS requesting payment for their immigration fees. The email will instruct recipients to pay via PayPal or Western Union, providing specific account details as to where payments can be sent. However, and this is important to remember, the USCIS DOES NOT accept immigration fees through either of these payment methods!!

The email may also include a fake 800 number to call if you prefer to make a payment over the phone. This is also NOT a payment method the USCIS accepts.

The ONLY way to make a payment online is through egov.uscis.gov also known as myUSCIS. Otherwise, the only other method of payment accepted is through the mail. USCIS officials recommend sending immigration payments with the required applications and other documentation.

In other cases, perpetrators use email to falsely inform foreign nationals they qualify for an H-1B work visa even if they were NOT selected in the annual H-1B Visa Lottery.

How can you tell this is a scam? Simple. The USCIS DOES NOT inform selected foreign nationals by e-mail. Those submitted to the H-1B Visa Lottery are provided a confirmation number. Following the H-1B Visa lottery, participants will log into their account at www.dvlottery.state.gov with the confirmation number they were granted. On that website, they will find if they were granted an H-1B Visa or not.

These are just a couple of ways cyber-criminals are able to steal your personal identity and / or bank account information in order to drain your financial accounts. In the end, your time is wasted, you won’t get a work visa and – depending on the visa type – you’ll have to wait another year to apply.

Fake websites

As you’re probably aware, online scammers use the latest technology to set up fake websites.

For example, there are sites which claim to be affiliated with the USCIS. In many instances, these sites are well designed and appear to be genuine; offering step-by-step guides to completing work visa petitions and links to download necessary forms and documents.

So, how can you identify a legit USCIS affiliate site from a fake?Any legitimate USCIS site will not require payment to download forms. All forms are FREE to download or obtainable by contacting the USCIS office directly. Fake USCIS affiliate sites will likely allow you to download forms for a fee.

Plus, by paying to download forms, your credit card or bank account information ends up in the hands of a criminal.


 One thing’s for certain, if you’re ever contacted by the USCIS or DHS with threats of incomplete applications, invalid documentation, followed by threats of deportation, it’s likely you’re the target of a scam.

If you’re on the phone, best to hang up. If it’s a website which requires you to pay to download forms, best to go directly to the USCIS site. If it’s an email, delete it.

In the event the USCIS needs to contact you, they’ll send you a notification through the mail. The notification will likely have the USCIS or DHS phone number listed if you should need to get in touch with them.The more you know limits the likelihood you’ll fall victim to a scam.



For the third straight month, the number of unemployed U.S. citizens remained unchanged holding at 4.9% in August 2016, missing overall market expectations of 4.8%.

Since January 2016, the unemployment rate plateaued at 5.0% in March and April of 2016, falling to as low as 4.7% in May with a gradual increase to 4.9% in June 2016 where it has remained. Although the numbers seem low, the Labor Force Participation Rate reports only 62.8% of American adults are currently employed; a participation rate which has not been this low since the 1970’s when fewer women worked outside the home.

The current participation rate is being impacted by retiring Baby Boomers along with more high school graduates choosing to further their education rather than enter the workforce.

Another significant factor impacting the participation rate centers around the number of Americans who have given up the idea of finding a job. Earlier in the year it was reported, of the nearly 2.9 million unemployed Americans desired a job, yet were not actively seeking one.

Should Fashion Modeling be Classified Under H-1B Visa Category?

U.S. immigration reform is a hot topic going into the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

To no one’s surprise, there’s a huge policy gap between democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and top republican candidate Donald Trump.

Clinton supports the current H-1B visa program, going as far as wanting to grant F-1 visa graduates who earn an advanced STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) degree an automatic green card.

However, Trump has expressed his opposition to the visa program believing U.S. companies are simply taking advantage of cheap labor. According to GOP front-runner, American jobs should only go to American workers. If elected, Trump has declared he would seriously consider putting an end to the H-1B visa program.

Of course, many media outlets have reported on Trump’s use of the H-1B visa program in the past. When confronted about it, Trump admitted using the program yet believed he should not have been allowed to, maintaining his stance on ending it.

The H-1B visa issue has also raised questions as to whether Trump’s wife, Melina, modeling work visa was legit. There have been speculations Melina violated visa rules when during her employment as a fashion model for Trump’s fashion agency during the 1990’s. However, Trump’s campaign spokeswoman, Hope Hicks, was quick to respond to allegations stating Melina followed all applicable laws and is now a proud citizen of the United States.

As a result of Melina’s questionable work visa, other questions have been raised as to whether foreign national fashion models should be eligible for H-1B visas.

What is an H-1B3 Visa?

The H1B3 visa is a subcategory of the H-1B visa classification.It’s reserved for non immigrant aliens who work in the United States on a temporary basis as fashion models.

Once they’re approved for an H-1B3 visa, the beneficiary is granted a three year stay which can be extended to six as long as a Labor Certification Petition (FORM I-140] is submitted and approved, or an employment adjustment of status was filed at least 365 days prior to the end of their initial three-year term.

Less Education Required with More Earning Potential

A portion of the debate centers around lenient qualifications fashion models must meet verses every other profession petitioning for an H-1B visas.

The H-1B visa is reserved for immigrants in highly-skilled professions such as technology, engineering, and science. Therefore, critics believe H-1B visas granted to fashion models would be better served if they were granted to professions which require higher levels of knowledge and skillsets.

Except for the modeling profession, in order for immigrants to qualify for an H-1B visa they must have – at the very least-  a Bachelor’s Degree. Many other professions require advanced degrees such as a Master’s or Doctorate.

Fashion models are not required to have a college degree. In fact, they’re not even required to have a high school degree. Plus, international models granted H-1B3 visas, on average, are likely to earn more than American fashion models at the same professional level.

Therefore, not only are technology professionals object to including fashion models into the H-1B visa category, American models also feel unfairly treated in terms of compensation.

 Congressional Oversight

How did fashion models become grouped with H-1B Visa category?

It started approximately 20 years ago when Congress attempted to create a separate category of visa for celebrity occupations which included athletes, performers, and religious workers.

Unfortunately, lawmakers failed to include fashion models into this category. At the time, lawmakers could not agree as to how to categorize fashion modeling. Therefore, the fashion profession was placed under the H-1B umbrella.

In 2007, former New York democratic congressman Anthony Weiner attempted to pass a bill granting 1,000 visas to immigrants in the fashion modeling industry.  Unfortunately, the bill stalled in the Senate and was never passed (much of which resulted from Weiner’s resignation following inappropriate conduct).

In that same year, the Judiciary Committee believed losing models could have a negative impact on the U.S. based on researched conducted by the Booking Institution, which indicated that in New York alone one in 20 workers took part in the fashion industry generating approximately $10 million in wages.

Eventually the U.S. Congress will have to revisit this issue in an effort to determine exactly what is the overall impact the fashion industry has on the 65,000 H-1B visa cap and should the profession be categorized under a different heading?

H-1B3 Application Process

U.S. employers are required to submit a certified Labor Condition Application (LCA) from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL).

The LCA ensures the U.S. employer understands and complies with specific labor requirements including:

  • The employer will pay the H-1B3 fashion model a wage no less than the wage paid to similarly qualified U.S. workers or, if greater, the prevailing wage for their position in the geographic area in which they work.
  • The employer will provide suitable working conditions which will not adversely affect other similarly employed workers. For example, the employer cannot hire foreign nationals as a result of U.S. employees on strike or due to a lockout.
  • Notice of filing of labor condition application with the DOL was given to the union bargaining representative or was posted at the place of business.
  • The employer will also need to file a Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker form [FORM I-129] with the United States Citizenship of Immigration Services (USCIS).

If the foreign immigrant is outside of the United States, they must apply with the U.S. Department of State at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad for an H-1B visa, and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection for admission into the United States, regardless of whether a visa is required.

A Fashion Model of Distinguished Merit and Ability

In addition to the Labor Condition Application and Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, U.S. employers must also submit documentation which references the H-1B3 beneficiary’s qualifications. Evidence submitted must show the foreign immigrant is of national or international acclaim.

  • Evidence can include, but not limited to:
  • Services performed as a fashion model for employers with distinguished reputations.
  • Distinguished events or productions the beneficiary has taken part.
  • Recognition for significant achievements received from prominent organizations, reputable critics, high-profile fashion houses, established modeling agencies, or other recognized experts in the field.
  • National or international recognition in magazines, newspapers, trade journals, or other reputable publications.
  • Evidence the H-1B3 beneficiary has commanded a high salary or other legal forms of substantial payment for their modeling services, documented on contracts or other reliable resources.
  • Evidence which showcases the services to be performed require a fashion model of distinguished merit and ability.

Written contract or summary of oral agreement

Copies of written contracts between the petitioner and the H1B3 fashion model or, if no written agreement exists, a summary of the terms of the oral agreement under which the beneficiary will be employed.

H-1B3 holders are also allowed to bring their spouses and dependents into the country.

All spouses and dependents will be granted an H4 visa which allows them temporary residency within the United States however does not allow them to work in the United States.


OPT Program Extended Another 7-months (36 month OPT program)for STEM Majors

STEM Degrees


Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a program which provides foreign national students attending a U.S. college with on-the-job learning and experience.


The standard program allows post-graduate F-1 Visa holders to work for a U.S. employer within their designated field up to 12 months with a U.S. employer. In 2008, an additional 17-month extension was offered to students majoring in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (categorized as STEM majors).


In March of 2016, the Department for Homeland Security extended the program for STEM F-1 Visa students by another seven months. Therefore, STEM majors can now take part in an OPT program for 36 months (3 years).


Students who qualify include:

  • Those who have applied to with the United States Citizenship Immigration Services (USCIS) with an application still pending.
  • Those who currently have an approved 17-month STEM OPT extension, and interested in a 7-month extension.
  • Those who earned a bachelors, masters, or doctoral degree from a school accredited by the U.S. Department of Education and certified by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program.
  • Those who were recently accepted to work or currently working for a U.S. employer within their designated field.
  • As a 24-month extension is available only once, the student must not have previously received a 24-month extension after earning a STEM degree.
  • Those who are able to provide a copy of their STEM degree.
  • Also, students cannot accrue more than 120 days of unemployment during the 36-month OPT period.


Designated Student Official’s Role

The Designated Student Official (DSO) at the university is required to:

  • Recommend a 24-month OPT extension after verifying the student’s eligibility.
  • Certify the student’s degree is on the STEM Designated Degree Program List.
  • Ensure the student is aware of his / her responsibilities for maintaining status while on OPT.

If the student is approved for the extension, F-1 Visa holders must report their changes to their DSO within 10 days of the change.

Reporting Requirements

While students are on a STEM OPT they’ll be required to validate their information every 6 months and update the International Organization for Standardization (IOS) within 10 days of any changes to the following information:

  • Name
  • Residential address
  • Phone number
  • Email address
  • Employer information
  • Start and end date with employer
  • Job title
  • Supervisor’s name and other contact information
  • Any period(s) of unemployment
  • Date of departure from U.S. (pending if student leaves prior to OPT STEM end date)
  • Student filling out and submitting a formal Mentoring and Training Plan [Form I-983 – Training Plan for STEM OPT Students] to the University before the STEM OPT application can be processed.
  • Submission of a formal employer-signed self-evaluation of the training progress.

F-1 Visa post-graduate students may benefit from the OPT extension twice in their lifetime pending their second extension is for a higher degree.

In Summary

The recent STEM OPT extension update offers a number of benefits for F-1 Visa foreign national beneficiaries looking for additional education and on-the-job experience.

Those benefit include:

  • Offers F-1 Visa students – who used all of the first grant of STEM OPT work authorization – to enroll in a second STEM academic eligible program.
  • F-1 students who graduated with a non-STEM degree – only receiving 12-month OPT work authorization grant – would be eligible to use a previously granted STEM degree as a basis to apply for a 24-month extension.
  • All duties, hours, and compensation for F-1 Visa holders must be equal with those provided to U.S. workers.
  • Provides additional training opportunities for F-1 Visa Holders with STEM degrees.


How CPT and OPT programs help F-1 Visa Students Gain Real World Experience through Business Analyst Profession

The Curriculum Practical Training (CPT) and Optional Practical Training (OPT) programs, authorized by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, provide eligible F-1 non-immigrant student visa holders the opportunity to gain hands on experience within their field of study.It gives foreign nationals the chance to gain real world experience with a U.S. company. Each college academic office is in charge of locating and helping foreign nationals take part in work study programs. Opportunities which offer F-1 visa students with additional credit, while others need it to graduate.

Business Analyst profession

U.S. technology companies remain the top profession in recruiting foreign nationals.In addition to technology occupations, one distinguished line of work which enhances business skill sets and opens doors to future business opportunities is the profession of business analyst (BA).It’s a position which examines company programs and processes to become more efficient.The purpose is to determine what works, in addition to identifying areas of improvements. It requires initiating new ideas and processes to improve functionality and overall productivity.A BA researches and analyzes processes involved, documenting each step along the way.

Perquisites to becoming a business analyst

What are the prerequisites to becoming a BA? It really depends on the type of person needed.Some companies might be seeking a functional BA, consulting BA, software BA, or academic BA. Each position requires different skill sets.

  • Functional BA’s review processes within a company. Their job entails developing more efficient model and work flow processes.
  • Consulting BA’s are used by many technology firms to come up with different model process and documentation.
  • Software BA’s examine specific software programs to become subject matter experts. This allows them to train others or be the point person when issues come up.
  • Academic BA’s are usually reserved for analysts with previous BA experience. Usually Academic BA’s work as teachers and instructors.

Future opportunities

Working as a BA opens the door to numerous careers including project management, training, and consulting.Plus, any industry could use a BA for one reason or another. So it’s not a profession which is bound to go away.Also, upon working for a company, understanding all the intricate details of a specific program or overall company itself, they very well could find a position within that company someday; perhaps through an H-1B visa (pending they’re selected through the H-1B visa lottery).Companies want to make sure they are keeping their stakeholders satisfied.

Keeping stakeholder’s happy

A BA can impact the bottom line for a company.Being able to identify areas which could both save the company money and increase profits will not only impress upper management, it certain to impress stakeholders as well.A stakeholder is someone who provides a company with financial support.Without the stakeholder’s contribution, the company would – in most cases – cease to exist. As long as the company continues to flourish, and the stakeholder(s) are making a return on their investment, stakeholders will continue to financially back the organization.

In summary, the BA profession offers numerous skillsets which could lead to multiple career opportunities.Plus, the more knowledge a BA gains with a company, the more valuable they will become. In the unfortunate event they should lose their BA job as a result of a layoff, company downsizing, or other their resume should increase their likelihood they will be able to land another high-paying position.The CPT and OPT programs can help F-1 visa students gain valuable business experience in addition to their foot in the door with companies willing to consider hiring them after they graduate.


EB-5 Program Stimulates U.S. Economy and Provides Foreign Entrepreneurs with Opportunities

n 1990, the United States Congress created and passed the EB-5 Visa in an effort to stimulate the national economy.

United States Citizenship of Immigration Services (USCIS) offers the EB-5 Visa to foreign national entrepreneurs looking to establish a new business in the United States and generate more jobs for American citizens and increase capital investment by foreign investors.

In 1992, the U.S. Congress created the Immigrant Investor Program, also known as the Regional Center Program. This allows EB-5 visa holders who invest in commercial enterprises associated with regional centers (USCIS approved) based on proposals which are focused on promoting economic growth.

What is classified as Commercial Enterprise

A commercial enterprise is a business which provides goods and services involving financial, commercial, and industrial aspects. It engages buying and selling activities on a large scale for the purposes of making a profit.

Commercial enterprise is any for-profit activity formed for the ongoing conduct of lawful business including, not limited to,

  •         Sole proprietorship
  •         Partnership
  •         Holding company
  •         Joint venture
  •         Corporation
  •         Business trust

Part of the qualifications for obtaining an EB-5 Visa require foreign national entrepreneurs to invest between $500,000 to $1,000,000 into a Targeted Employment Area (a targeted employment areas are locations within the United States where high unemployment rates exist).

EB-5 Visa Application Process

Foreign nationals looking to acquire an EB-5 Visa must:

1)       File form I-526, Petition by Alien Entrepreneur”.

2)       Once the “Petition by Alien Entrepreneur” is approved, next step is filing form I-485, “Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status” with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in order to adjust status to a conditional permanent resident within the America.

Or, foreign nationals can submit form DS-230 or DS-260, “Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration” to the U.S. Department of State in order to acquire an EB-5 Visa for admission into the United States.

3)    Upon approval of “Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status”, or upon entry into the United States with an EB-5 Visa, the foreign national and their family members will be granted conditional permanent residence for a two years.

If a EB-5 Visa holder desires permanent residence for themselves and their family, they can submit file I-829,Petition by Entrepreneur to Remove Conditions”.

The application will need to be submitted 90 days prior to the completion of their two-year term.

If the USCIS approves the “Petition by Entrepreneur to Remove Conditions” the two-year conditions will be removed, granting the EB-5 Visa holder a Green Card and permanent status in America.

In Summary

The EB-5 Visa Program is a win-win opportunity for America and foreign nationals seeking to operate a business in the United States.

Foreign nationals are granted the opportunity to own and operate their business in the United States and, as part of the EB-5 Program requirements, provide job opportunities to Americans in areas where the unemployment rate is high.

For more information regarding EB-5 process, visit the USCIS website or contact them directly.

AC21 Provides H-1B Worker’s Opportunity for Extended Stay When Changing Occupation

AC21 Provides H-1B Worker’s Opportunity for Extended Stay When Changing Occupations

Presently, if a foreign national is awarded an H-1B Visa from the United States, they’ll be allowed to work in the country for three years.

Following their initial 3-year contract, their U.S. employer can request a 3-year extension.

H-1B Visa holders are only allowed to maintain their U.S. temporary worker’s status for six years. Once their 6-year time limit is up, according to U.S. federal mandates, the foreign national must live outside of the United States for 365 consecutive days. Following the one year, the foreign national may apply for another H-1B Visa.

What is AC21?

Enacted in 2000, the American Competitiveness in 21st Century (AC21) Act, commonly known as the job flexibility provision, offers H-1B Visa holders an extended stay beyond the 6-year statutory limit in the event an H-1B visa holder changes jobs.

AC21 extended stays are granted in 1 year increments.

The AC21 allows foreign nationals to extend their residency while their “Adjustment of Status” [FORM I-495] application is being reviewed by the United States Citizenship of Immigration Services (USCIS).

Currently, there are no limits as to how long the foreign nationals can be granted 1-year increments.

How to Become Eligible

To be eligible, the USCIS must conclude the new employment opportunity the foreign national desires to pursue is similar to the job duties they were performing for their previous employer.

H-1B Visa holders are expected to notify the USCIS Service Center in the event they no longer intend to enter into employment with the employer who sponsored their Immigrant Worker Petition [Form I-140].

An Application for Adjustment of Status [Form I-485] must be approved by the USCIS.

A letter from the new employer is required to verify the offer of permanent employment. The letter must also entail a description of the job as well as the salary. The USCIS will use the letter to determine whether the job meets the same or similar occupation requirements.

The Application for Adjustment must be in a pending status for 180 days to qualify to be reviewed by the USCIS.

The responsibilities and overall duties don’t have to be exact, however similar.

For example, an H-1B Visa holder cannot switch occupations from working in the field of science to working in the field of technology. The employment crossover must be in line with the previous job they were doing.

The salary must also be similar to the previous employer.

The wages can be more or less. With the new employer, the salary offered must be enough for the foreign national to be self-supporting and not place them in a position where they have to seek public assistance to make ends meet.

Wages depend on many factors as well such as location of the job, company benefits, and the national economy.

Also, the new job doesn’t have to be located within the same geographic location, nor does it have to pay the same or a higher salary.

In Summary

The AC21 allows H-1B visa holders to transfer jobs to another employer.

Currently there are no prescribed AC21 required forms. The only thing required is a letter from the H-1B Visa holder’s new employer for verification purposes. The letter will need to provide the USCIS with the job title, duties involved, and salary.

The AC21 allows U.S. employers an opportunity to retain good workers for an extended period of time.


What does a H-1B Visa Holders Need to Know About Transferring Status to Another Employer

What does a H-1B Visa Holders Need to Know About Transferring Status to Another Employer


An H-1B Transfer is a phrase used to describe the process when an H-1B foreign employee resigns from one American company in order to take a new position with another American company.

Although the word ‘transfer’ is used to describe the process, technically nothing is really ‘transferred’ from the old employer to the new one except the actual foreign national and their visa. The foreign national doesn’t need to re-apply for a new visa in order to work for their new employer.

The new employer will need to submit an H-1B petition and copies of other documents, on behalf of the foreign employee, to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Once the necessary information is submitted, the H-1B holder can begin working for their new employer immediately.

Required Documents

The new employer will be required to provide the USCIS with copies (not originals) of the following documents.

  •         Paystubs from last three months
  •         Copy of the employee’s H-1B approval notice
  •         Employee’s passport
  •         Most current visa stamp (must not be expired)
  •         I-94 records
  •         Copy of Social Security Card
  •         Employee’s resume
  •         Existing valid visa
  •         All employee’s diploma and degrees
  •         Work experience letters, offer letters, and relieving letters

The new employer may also need to supply H-4 documents for their H-1B visa employee’s spouse and child(ren).

Documents include copies of their passports, visa stamps, I-94 cards (front and back), marriage certificate, and children’s birth certificates.

H-1B Visa Holder Background Matters

An H-1B Visa holder is allowed to change companies pending the position they’re accepting is similar to the one they were hired for with their previous employer (duties and obligations may differ, yet the actual job should remain the same).

In order for an H-1B Visa transfer to happen, the employee must be in good standing with the law at the time of filing. Any blemishes on their court records – similar to American citizens – could result in the foreign national’s request for a transfer to be denied.

The H-1B Visa holder must also prove they never took part in any form of unauthorized employment since their previous lawful admission into the United States.

Processing Timeframe Varies

Once the paperwork is filed with USCIS, the processing procedure is likely to take between four to eight weeks.

Time varies based on each location. However, if there’s a need to expedite the process, employers can elect to use premium processing, in which the processing could be completed in 15 days (pending the USCIS don’t make any requests for evidence).

In the unfortunate event the USCIS should request more information; the entire process could be delayed for 3-4 months if the documentation was submitted under premium processing. However, if submitted normally, a request for more information could delay the process between 9 – 10 months.

In Summary

Unlike submitting a standard H-1B Visa petition and documentation, pending there’s no issues within their background, the H-1B Visa holder will be allowed to accept a new position within a new company.

Transfers don’t fall under the H-1B Visa U.S. mandated annual cap.

The keys to a successful H-1B Visa transfer is for the visa holder to have all their ducks in a row, beginning with their paperwork. The more organized they are in retaining their copies, the faster their transfer request can be received and processed with the USCIS.

And finally, it’s always wise for an H-1B Visa holder to contact their immigration lawyer to ensure all steps are taken for a smooth transition.